Jimmy Carter’s Legacy: Pro-Abortion Judge Stephen Reinhardt

Opinion   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 7, 2010   |   6:19PM   |   Washington, DC

Some pro-life advocates are still confused about former President Jimmy Carter and whether he was pro-life or supported abortion. While Carter claimed to be pro-life, his actions frequently spoke louder than words.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a liberal who sits on a federal appeals court that will soon decide the controversial appeal of proposition 8 in California, is one judicial activist Carter placed on the courts who has issued decisions anathema to pro-life concerns over the years.

Reinhardt was active in questioning attorneys for both sides in the case after rejecting a legal motion and public calls for him to recuse himself from the case.

In a new columnat Town Hall, pro-life women’s leader Phyllis Schlafly talks about Carter’s legacy through Reinhardt.

Some have lamented that Jimmy Carter, who served only one term as president, didn’t get a chance to make any Supreme Court appointments. But don’t cry for Carter — he had plenty of influence on the judiciary.

As Ronald Reagan was building his successful campaign for president, Carter was stacking the federal courts with 259 activist federal judges, more than any other one-term president in history. Thirty years later, many of those judges are still rendering liberal activist decisions. Among the left-wingers Carter appointed to the judiciary were Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Both were later elevated to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton.

After creating an unprecedented 10 new judgeships on the Ninth Circuit, Carter managed to appoint 15 liberal judges to that circuit. Many of those judges are still rendering liberal decisions, including the now 79-year-old Stephen Reinhardt.

His 1996 decision purporting to find a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide was rejected by all nine Supreme Court justices, and his 2006 decision finding a constitutional right to partial-birth abortion was also overturned by the Supreme Court.

According to legal analyst Ed Whelan, “Reinhardt is probably the most overturned judge in history,” including 11 reversals in one year alone, five of them unanimously. Reinhardt responded, “They can’t catch them all.”

Each year, Reinhardt hires as his law clerks four liberal graduates of Ivy League law schools. One of his former clerks, Deval Patrick, is now governor of Massachusetts, and another, Thomas Saenz, is president of the radical MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund).

A motion was filed in the Ninth Circuit to get Reinhardt to recuse himself from hearing the appeal because (in the words of federal law) “his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Among the many reasons cited by this motion is that his wife is Ramona Ripston, the longtime executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, which has played a lead role in the organizational and legal battles for same-sex marriage.

Ripston has been executive director of the ACLU/SC since 1972 and was a co-founder of NARAL in 1969, a leader of People for the American Way, and a longtime political associate and appointee of Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa.

Carter also signed the CEDAW treaty, which has been used to press for abortion in other nations.

But in 2005,  Carter condemned all abortions and took his party to task for its strong pro-abortion position.

“I never have felt that any abortion should be committed — I think each abortion is the result of a series of errors,” he told reporters.

Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute at Concerned Women for America, was shocked by those remarks and said they were ones Carter never expressed before.

“He has long professed to be an evangelical Christian and yet he had embraced virtually all the liberal political agenda,” Knight said then. “Maybe with Jimmy Carter saying things he never uttered before, more liberals will rethink their worship of abortion as the high holy sacrament of liberalism.”